Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Pro Bono matching websites

Florida Pro Bono Matters is a website that allows for matching volunteer lawyers with cases.

It allows for legal aid groups to easily post cases from their case management system, to then be easily found, filtered, adn signed up for by lawyers.

Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Online training for pro bono work

The Pro Bono Training Institute in LA offers online training modules to prep lawyer volunteers to do good work as they volunteer to provide legal help.

They developed these modules with OneJustice, with funding from the LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund.

Professionals' Networks + Traiing

CAIR Chicago’s Travelers Assistance Program

CAIR Chicago has sponsored a new initiative to mobilize legal help and interpreters (as well as knowledge) for people at risk of civil rights violation or immigration problems. Their Travelers Assistance Project was launched to give travelers alerts, assemble an Attorney Corps, and an Interpreters Corps.

T.A.P CAIR-Chicago’s Traveler’s Assistance Project, a first of its kind nationally, created to help travelers secure legal help in light of the #MuslimBan. T.A.P is ONE stop shop. It includes an online system that collects at-risk traveler information and puts it in a queue for our in-house Attorney Corps and legal teams of our partner organizations to streamline on our ability to assist on the ground. It provides important traveler “know your rights” updates. Lastly, you can sign up to join us as a volunteer attorney or interpreter.

Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Dulles Justice Coalition: rapid response pro bono network

Dulles Justice Coalition is a grassroots organization in the DC area, in which lawyers have come together to provide help to immigrants. Specifically, it arose after the January Executive Order that upset the travel plans and border-crossings of refugees and people from Muslim-majority countries.

They formed as an impromptu group and also stood up a website to take in requests for legal help.

They also embedded legal precedents and other research as resources for lawyers to use. They created a lengthy Resources for Lawyers google doc, with definitions, case precedents, and other files and references for pro bono lawyers to use.

Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Modest Means Incubator project in California

Last week I attended the presentation about Modest Means Incubators at the State Bar of California. There were judges, private lawyers, law school admins, legal service providers, and court staff there to talk about how new models of legal practices can be built.

The goal is to provide new access to lawyers to those with low & modest incomes — and also to train new JDs with practical skills that can help them start their own practices.

Here are my quickly sketched notes from the session:
Legal Incubators

Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

The Parole Hearing Data Project

The Parole Hearing Data Project - Open Law Lab

Check out a new data-gathering & redesign project from Nikki Zeichner, The Parole Hearing Data Project. It could be of use to legal professionals and advocates who are building new tools, or evaluating stats and data to make better arguments.

The Parole Hearing Data Project is a repository of New York State parole hearing data based on:

1 records scraped from the New York State Parole Board’s website; and

2 parole hearing transcripts crowdsourced with help from attorneys, advocates and prisoners/the formerly incarcerated.

So far, we have gathered 30,000+ records and formatted them for analysis. This project is in development. Currently, we are focused on developing a streamlined system of gathering hearing transcripts in collaboration and with consideration of those who are close to this issue. We are also working with graduate students at NYU and Columbia University who are analyzing and visualizing what we have so far. One end product that we look forward to showcasing is a library of multimedia content based on both our data and on documentation of this project’s development.


We are building this dataset because in New York over 10,000 parole eligible prisoners are denied release every year, and while the consequences of these decisions are costly at $60,000 annually to incarcerate one individual, the process of how these determinations are made is unclear. A former parole commissioner stated recently that “[t]he Parole Board process is broken, terribly broken.” We believe that the first step towards fixing a broken system is understanding it; the data that we gather will tell valuable stories about crime, incarceration, personal change, forgiveness, stereotypes, power, fear, and race, among other themes.


The Parole Hearing Data Project was created by Nikki Zeichner, a New York City-based criminal defense attorney developing multimedia public projects that explore the U.S. criminal justice system. Her interest in examining the NYS parole board’s release practices grew out of her experience representing a prisoner who had been denied release 9 times before their work together. More of her storytelling projects can be found at the Museum of the American Prison’s website. For inquiries: info at museumoftheamericanprison dot org

Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

The Justice Index

Open Law Lab - Justiceindex - 1

The Justice Index is a new project out of the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School. It collects & displays data about how people in the US — particularly those who are traditionally disadvantaged in the legal system — are faring when it comes to access to legal aid services and courts. It is a step towards metrics & documentation of Access to Justice — which hopefully then can ground a forward-looking agenda of projects to correct trends moving in the wrong direction.

It can help people who fund, direct, and work in the legal system to review their own work and develop new solutions.

Justice depends on having a fair chance to be heard, regardless of who you are, where you live, or how much money you have. The National Center for Access to Justice has created the Justice Index to help make access to justice a reality for all. The Justice Index provides a vivid picture of which states are following practices and providing the resources necessary to make the legal system fair to everyone. Our justice system is among the most highly regarded in the world and we cherish our ideal of equality before the law. But for too many people the reality falls short of the promise.

Open Law Lab - Justiceindex - 2

One of the guiding choices of Justice Index is to visually display the data through interactive, colorful maps. Here are some of the examples of how they’ve transformed data about access statistics into interactive visual displays. If you go to the site, you can play with the tools to filter & focus on the data that you’re most interested in.

Open Law Lab - The Justice index - 4 Open Law Lab - The Justice index - 5 Open Law Lab - The Justice index - 6

Open Law Lab - Justiceindex - 3

It’s great to see lively & informative displays of Access information — both to make the problems more visible, and to start framing the conversation about what our collective agenda should be (we, being designers, engineers, lawyers, and makers who want to conduct projects that have impact on access).

Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

SF Law Open + Buildable

Open Law Lab - SF Open Law

The San Francisco city government launched SF Open Law this week — to make all of its laws open for people who code, build, and design to use. Legal professionals can use it to build new tools.

Open Law Lab - SF Open Law 2

It’s a repository for hackers to make better legal apps & tools for the city.  And it’s a collaborative too, allowing people who have made things to add it to a collective resource.

Open Law Lab - SF Open Law 3

Here’s the initiative’s self-description

Open Law represents a commitment by the City and County of San Francisco to releasing one of our most important pieces of information—the law—to the public in formats that make it more accessible. Following on our landmark Open Data Policy, the laws of San Francisco are released in technologist-friendly formats that can power new applications that enhance understanding, improve access and lead to new insights about the law.

These applications have yet to emerge, but we believe giving unprecedented access to the law will unleash creativity from the community. Imagine, for example, if you could:

  • Discover all the laws impacting small businesses in an easy, modern, browsable format
  • Find amusing or outdated laws from a bygone era
  • Explore the legal actions and ordinances that led to Municipal Code changes more easily
  • Share and discuss laws and get answers from certified legal resources in the community
Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Using Tech to Improve Lineups

An article from Ben Paynter at Good Magazine about Gary Well’s work in the Austin Police Department to use a computer program to improve crime witnesses’ identification of suspects.

an excerpt

“It’s an experimental protocol designed by Gary Wells, the guru of eyewitness reliability—or rather, unreliability. The director of social sciences at the American Judicature Society’s Center for Forensic Science and Public Policy, Wells has been working on lineups since the 1970s, but in the past 20 years exonerations of hundreds of prisoners based on DNA evidence—after many had been convicted in part based on good-faith eyewitness testimony—have made his task all the more urgent. Wells doesn’t want to merely understand witness identification. He wants to fix it.”

“Attorney General Janet Reno asked Wells to head a task force on new lineup guidelines for states, and he proposed new practices drawn from his research. All lineups should be blind, he said—the cops administering them shouldn’t know who the suspects or fillers are. There should only be one suspect per lineup. Witnesses should be clearly advised that a suspect might not be in the lineup. And statements of confidence should be recorded verbatim at the time of the pick, because witnesses with any uncertainty have been known to talk themselves into their choices as time passes.”

“In 2006, Wells designed a new study protocol. The tests wouldn’t just be blind but “computer blind”—the computer itself could offer prerecorded instructions to ensure lineups were done uniformly. After officers created a lineup, the photos would also be digitally shuffled so they couldn’t pass along the location of their suspect to anyone running the lineup. That eliminates the chance of lineup administrators giving off any cues—subtle nods, coughs, or the suggestion to pay closer attention to any one photo—that might be used, unconsciously, of course, to tip witnesses off to prime suspects. The computer would even randomly decide whether to run a sequential lineup or a simultaneous one.”

Current Projects Professionals' Networks + Traiing

Mobile Ethics App for Lawyers

The New York State Bar Association has released a mobile app for lawyers, judges, and other legal practitioners — for quicker advice on whether their action is ‘Ethical Under the Law.’

The app mainly provides a Search Function, to let the professional find a legal opinion on the matter at hand, to determine whether it has been judged ethical or not.

The user can search by keyword, or by the name of the opinion if they hand it — and the app will search through NY’s full case output on ethics. The app shows the matches with brief digests of the opinions, and the user can click through for full text.